The rise of stories across different social media channels over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable. Between the various social networks that offer the format – including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and WhatsApp – there are now estimated to be close to 1.5 billion daily active users of stories worldwide.
The growth has been so impressive that Facebook executives have forecasted that it will soon replace news feed posts as the primary way in which social media users consume content.
However, that day has not arrived yet, and it is important for marketers to strike a balance between creating content for the new format and servicing those who still prefer to get their social fix by scrolling through the feed. Not only that, but certain types of content will naturally remain more well-suited to standalone posts than multimedia slideshow reels.
So, what type of content should your school post in stories, and what should be left for the news feed? Read on to find out.
Your School’s Social Media Stories Should Have a Clear Narrative
A social media story should be just that – a story. The format was designed to better enable content creators to construct a narrative, combining various different elements to bring together an overall sequence that entertains and engages from start to finish.
Keeping this in mind when creating social media stories for schools can be a good way to judge whether what you have in mind is right for the medium. Do you need multiple images or video clips to communicate your message? Does it progress in a logical narrative, with a clear beginning, middle, and end? Is it interesting enough to hold a viewer’s attention? If your posts do not to meet these criteria, they may be better suited to your feed. News feed posts are more ‘static’ than stories, and better for communicating simple ideas.
For example, a ‘student takeover’ post in which a member of your student body takes your followers through a day or week in their life at your school could be ideal for the stories format, since it follows a logical narrative.
Example: This story from Liverpool University follows a student as she spends a day in the city.
Progressing through her day as viewers follow her to her favourite spots in town, the stories format makes an ideal vehicle for the content.
On the other hand, a more traditional ‘student testimonial’ in which a student gives a short account of their experiences at your school might be more effective as a feed post, since it is a standalone summary and doesn’t progress as a narrative.
Example: This post from Stanford University, in which a recent graduate talks about what they will miss about the school, works well as a news feed post.
The key is to let your content dictate its format, rather than the other way around. This will ensure that the posts you are creating are as engaging as possible, and don’t seem out of place or poorly thought out.
Keep Your School’s Stories Current, and Your Feed Posts Evergreen
While there are now features on some platforms – such as Instagram’s Highlights – which prolong the shelf-life of stories, the format is still generally considered to be a vehicle for more ephemeral content.
As a result, schools may be well-served by planning their stories with a view to capturing happenings on their campuses that will be engaging to prospects in the now, but not necessarily interesting for them in the future. For instance, you could create a story to promote an upcoming event.
Example: The London School of Economics created an Instagram story to encourage students to attend a careers event.
News feed posts, on the other hand, can need to be a bit more evergreen, in part due to the algorithmic models which social networks use to display them. They may not be seen by the majority of your audience until hours or even a few days after they are posted, and will also remain on your profile page for users to view for weeks and months to come. As a result, it can be best to focus on content that will not become dated, and will remain interesting to prospects regardless of when they find it.
Example: Language school The English Studio posted this album of pictures from a recent trip to Hyde Park. Posting photos from events that have already taken place can be a good option for your news feed, as prospects will still enjoy viewing them, particularly if they are recurring events that they may get the opportunity to experience in the future.
Take a More Flexible Approach to Social Media Stories for Schools
Because of its ephemeral nature, you can take a flexible approach to planning stories. Throughout your day, keep an eye out for interesting, funny, or unusual things to post about. You may be surprised by how much great content you will find.
This will probably mean that your stories are less polished and stylized than your other social media content, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The format’s authenticity was part of its original appeal when first debuted on Snapchat, and many brand’s stories have a more off-the-cuff, spontaneous feel to them.
Example: A few shots from a recent story from Stanford Engineering documenting an on-campus event. As you can see, the style is a little less polished than other kinds of social media posts tend to be.
Be More Professional in Your School’s News Feed Posts
In contrast, your news feed is the social face of your school, and posts need to be presented with care. This means taking more time, both to plan what you are posting and to ensure that it is of the highest possible standard. This is particularly true on Instagram, given the high emphasis the platform places on visuals and the heavily stylized nature of much of the content that users post.
Example: A very artfully taken shot of the University of Pennsylvania library on Instagram. Schools will often take great care to capture unique and interesting visuals like this for their Instagram feeds.
This isn’t to say, of course, that there is no room for improvisation in your news feed. Allowing some flexibility and room for your team to capture specific moments when they present themselves can help give your social media presence a less rigid, more personal identity, regardless of what format you are using.
Social Media Stories for Schools can be More Experimental than Feed Posts
News feeds have been the standard social media format for well over a decade now. As such, there are generally accepted rules of thumb for post creation across different social networks, and you’ll find best practices guidelines for everything from length of copy, to hashtag use, to the tone and style of your content. What’s more, social media content creators have a very good idea of what kind of content usually generates engagement, and tend to stick to tried and tested formulas.
Stories, on the other hand, is still very much in its infancy, a state which leaves far more room for experimentation. This is compounded by the sheer range of features and effects that can be incorporated into your posts. There is an array of different filters, text overlays, and graphics in both Instagram and Facebook Stories for schools to play around with, with new ones being introduced all the time. Your team shouldn’t be afraid to try out new things in order to make your stories stand out.
Example: This story from Duke University celebrating the acceptance of new students features everything from fireworks to animated pizza slices!
Having said that, it’s worth remembering that this won’t always be the case. As time goes on and the format becomes more mature, it is bound to become more professional and more competitive. Facebook recently released a report that goes some way towards defining best practices for stories ads, many of which could be equally applied to ordinary stories posts, too. It is also well worth keeping an eye on what established and well-known brands are doing with the feature in order to ensure your school keeps pace as it continues to evolve.
Which Format is Better for Your School’s Videos?
If you are creating video content, one simple but crucial thing to consider when deciding which format to use is how important sound is to your clip. Most users watch their stories feed with the sound on, so if you think viewers really need to have the volume turned up to get the most out of your video, putting it in a story may be the best option. Conversely, most social media users scroll regular news feeds with the sound off, so if it is really essential to your video, posting it in your feed may result in less engagement.
Videos in stories also have the added benefit of allowing you to add graphics, filters, and all the other effects the format offers.
Example: Oxford University used Instagram Stories for this video tour from one of its students. Note how they use the format’s text overlays to spice up their visuals and invite questions from viewers.
However, one advantage news feed video posts have over stories is the potential length allowed. Stories video clips can be a maximum of 20 seconds long on Facebook and 15 seconds on Instagram, although multiple clips can be added to a single story. Videos in feeds, meanwhile, can be up to a minute long on Instagram and 45 minutes on Facebook, which can give you have much more room to manoeuvre when it comes to planning your content.
What’s Best for Driving Traffic to Your School’s Website?
One of the biggest pluses of Instagram Stories for schools is that you are allowed to place CTAs in them linking to web pages or your profile page, or to encourage direct messages from prospects. Ordinary posts on the platform do not include links of any kind unless they are promoted, making stories arguably much more effective in driving traffic to your website.
Example: The ‘See More’ CTA in this story from Dartmouth College takes users to the school’s website.
Of course, it should be noted that this is not the case on Facebook, where your school can still post links to its heart’s content. News feed posts will also include previews of the linked page, which arguably make it a much more versatile and useful format for this purpose.
Example: A Facebook post from EC English linking to one of the school’s blogs. The Facebook news feed is arguably a much better place for sharing links like this than stories.
Considering Your School’s Social Media Audience
Last but not least, one of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing the right format for your social content is who your audience is, and which medium will give you the best chance of reaching them.
As a general rule of thumb, stories is currently dominated by younger users, particularly those under 25. Older audiences are naturally slower to adopt new technologies, so if you are looking to attract mature students, focusing more on the news feed might be the best way to go.
Having said that, the continued growth of stories means that you can expect it to become more and more prominent among users of all ages, and establishing a presence on it now, even if you are only posting occasionally, could be very worthwhile.
Overall, you should be aiming to create content regularly in both formats, which means working to generate a steady stream of ideas that are suited to each. This will give you a robust social media presence which provides something for everyone.